Contenders for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey award
With the busy festive period of racing going down a treat with punters in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it’s fair to say that the appetite is now whet for the 2023 renewal of the prestigious Cheltenham Festival in mid-March.
National Hunt racing in its current form seems to be dominated by the Festival, with all roads leading to the Prestbury Park showcase from the start of the season in November — and there were several horses out over the course of Christmas that those looking for a bet on Cheltenham were keen to keep a close eye on, including Constitution Hill, Bravemansgame and Facile Vega.
One of the big storylines away from the racing itself at the Festival is the contest for the sought-after Top Jockey accolade. The Ruby Walsh trophy has returned to Ireland all but once in the last decade, and not many would be bet against that being the outcome again this year.
However, while one man seems to already have it all but wrapped up months before the first race has even taken place, it’s still worth taking a look at some of the top contenders. Read on to find out more.
That man is, of course, Paul Townend. Being Willie Mullins’ No.1 rider would be a dream come true for any jockey, but it is Townend who is living out that fairy tale — and doing so with great aplomb despite the pressure, winning more major races for the famed Closutton stable than we’d care to count since taking over from Walsh.
The 32-year-old has been crowned the Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey twice in the last three years, and it seems inevitable that he will retain the accolade this season — with rides aboard multiple fancies in the horse racing betting tips, including Champion Chase favourite Energumene, two-time Ryanair Chase winner Allaho and Gold Cup hopeful Galopin Des Champs.
It’s also worth noting the son of the esteemed trainer — Patrick Mullins. The 33-year-old has the pleasure of picking up his dad’s second-string horses, which are still better than most, and he managed to secure joint second in the Top Jockey standings last year with three winners.
Nico de Boinville
The only Brit to win the leading jockey award in the last decade, Nico de Boinville has the pleasure of riding out for Seven Burrows boss Nicky Henderson — and that, of course, results in victories for the 33-year-old North Hampshire native.
De Boinville has more Grade 1 triumphs than any other active British rider, and he has a great chance to add to his résumé at Prestbury Park this year — especially on the opening day of the Festival.
De Boinville will be in the saddle of Jonbon, Constitution Hill and Marie’s Rock on Champions Day — who all stand a great chance of top-level victories in the Arkle, Champion Hurdle and Mare’s Hurdle respectively.
It’s fair to say that Paul Nicholls’ Manor Farm haven’t had the best of luck at the Cheltenham Festival in the last couple of years. In fact, that’s somewhat of an understatement — as the 60-year-old has failed to add to his 46 Festival winners in the last two years.
That doesn’t bode well for his No.1 rider Harry Cobden either. However, the pair have been in sensational form so far this season, and the 24-year-old already has 69 wins to his name at the time of writing.
With a book of rides set to include Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle favourite Hermes Allen and Gold Cup chance Braveman’s game, Cobden’s drought at the Festival has a good chance of ending this year. But it doesn’t look like he will have enough quality mounts to be in the mix for the Top Jockey award.
It also looks like it could be a rather lacklustre year for the star of the show over the last couple of seasons Rachael Blackmore, as Henry de Bromhead’s horses aren’t as prominent in the ante-post odds have they been in recent times.